Over the past 4 years, it is generally a given that the night after Wrestlemania is a time for WWE to press reset. The crowd still has an amalgamation of die-hard fans in the audience from the previous night, so the WWE universe is always tops at this particular Raw. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll jump right in. The opening segment is a solid promo between the new champion Daniel Bryan, and HHH. Bryan gets “you deserve it” chants from the crowd and has a moment to gloat his victory. HHH comes out and says they are facing off in the main event, because he wants to end this nightmare himself. Great intensity, good story, nicely done.
The Wyatts vs. Cena/Sheamus/Big E is up first, and MANNNN are the Wyatts popular with this crowd. Excellent back and forth match, where all six showed some nice offense. Cena and Sheamus are getting reamed from the Raw crowd, while chants of “Wyatt’s gonna kill you” rings out in the arena. Bray pins Big E with the “Sister Abigail”. I’d love to see Wyatt and Cena fight again at Extreme Rules.
Fandango/Summer vs. Santino/Emma are out next for a mixed tag that is LITERALLY the ONLY segment of filler on this entire 3 hour show. Nothing much to write about hear, Emma makes Summer tap, then she and Santino do goofy comedy stuff. Man, I really wish Emma was on her own.
Paul Heyman and Lesnar are out, and Heyman cuts the promo of the century here. They are getting boo’ed out of the building for beating the streak at Mania, and Heyman basically does the “I told you so” moment in the most eloquent and antagonistic way possible. Heyman’s delivery may very well make him the best promo guy in the WWE right now, as well as the best manager in history. Go watch this…now. Well, after you finish reading this column at least! Usos vs. Batista/Orton isn’t much here. The tag division is a little slim now and they wanted to show how dangerous Batista/Orton could be if they were united, so this goes as a quick double count-out where the Usos get beat on. I hope this was a one-off idea and is not a future feud.
RVD is announced as making his return out of nowhere, and he makes quick work of Damien Sandow. I feel so badly for Sandow, who has a great look and outstanding smarmy promo skills. I hate his burial here, but RVD is over with the crowd and looks great. Bad News Barrett makes his in-ring debut (under this character) against Rey Mysterio, and it’s another solid squash. Barrett is WAY over here, as this crowd likes to cheer underused talent. Solid match that Barrett wins, and I hope this opens the door for him to get back to wrestling full time. They also showed nice commercial vignettes for the upcoming debuts of NXT stars Adam Rose and Bo Dallas. Rose has been a great wrestler as Leo Kruger in the past, and the rock-star gimmick looks cool. Dallas is doing the cheesy “believe in yourself” thing, which will get him over as a heel. I really wish Sami Zayn was coming up in Bo’s place. Rusev also makes his in-ring debut, looking powerful in a quick squash over Zack Ryder.
AJ comes out for a “pipe-bombshell”, talking about how she’s beaten everyone and there’s no competition left. Out of nowhere, Paige (NXT Divas champ) comes out to a thunderous roar. They have a short match and Paige scores the upset in her debut and wins the Divas Title! The crowd goes nuts and AJ’s record-setting reign is over. I wish they gave these two 12-15 minutes in the ring to have a classic match, but there will be time for that in the future. Paige finally gives AJ another great diva to work with, and is the one person I don’t mind AJ dropping the belt to. Cesaro comes out next to get his trophy that he won at Mania, and Colter interrupts, saying he made Cesaro a “Zeb Colter guy”. Cesaro says he’s actually a “Paul Heyman guy”, and Heyman comes out! Just an hour earlier, Heyman was the most hated heel on the roster, and now he’s being cheered by a standing ovation. Ah, the genius of Heyman. Swagger attacks Cesaro and we get a quick count-out win for Cesaro. But the story here is, Cesaro is the next big main event player, and is massively popular with the crowd.
The Ultimate Warrior comes out to shake the ropes and give one final “thank you” to the fans for their support. Sadly, the very next night, 26 hours later, Warrior would be found dead near his car outside a hotel. His words on this promo now seem cryptic and Machiavellian, as he said one day his heart would stop beating and he’d live on through the fans forever. Chilling stuff. My thoughts and prayers go out to Warriors’ friends, fans, and family in this tragic time. I’m personally so glad this legend got to be inducted and say his goodbyes to fans before he passed. Shake the ropes for us in Heaven, Warrior.
As hard as it is to get back on track here, I must. HHH/Bryan never happens, as Kane jumps Bryan, as do Orton and Batista. HHH comes out to try to get it started, but the Shield interrupts from the crowd and has a face-off with the heels! Reigns spears HHH, and the battle of the Shield/Bryan against the former Evolution/Kane ends with the good guys clearing the ring. This cements the Shield as faces and sets up so many potential match-ups with main event guys. Amazing ending to the best Raw of the year by far!
Overall, this is a top-to-bottom, must-see show. We have RVD’s return, in-ring debuts from Barrett and Rusev, Paige’s debut and title shocker, a classic Heyman promo, Warriors final promo ever, packages for future stars, and Cesaro and the Shield’s surprising coming-out parties as WWE main event superstars. Watch this show in-full if you can, as there’s only one throw-away segment in the entire classic broadcast. Until the next opening bell, valued readers…